Heard January 6, 2014
Appeal From Oconee County. Appellate Case No. 2012-213136. Alexander S. Macaulay, Circuit Court Judge.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General John Benjamin Aplin, both of Columbia, for Appellant.
Michael O. Hallman, of Greenville, and C. Austin McDaniel, of Anderson, both of Cole Law Firm, for Respondent.
SHORT and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.
[408 S.C. 590] THOMAS,
In this driving under the influence (DUI) case, the State appeals the circuit court's reversal of Nezar Abraham's conviction in magistrate court. The State contends it presented sufficient independent evidence
corroborating Abraham's extra-judicial confession to establish a jury question as to Abraham's guilt. We reverse.
Shortly after midnight on July 7, 2011, Trooper Kevin Brown was called to the scene of a one-car accident in Oconee [408 S.C. 591] County, S.C. The accident occurred in the Keowee Key neighborhood on South Flagship Drive, which passes by the local country club. Upon arriving at the scene, Brown noticed the presence of emergency vehicles and a vehicle wrecked into a tree. Brown would later testify the wrecked vehicle was a dark-colored, newer model vehicle with " front-end damage consistent with running into a tree." Brown testified he believed the vehicle's license plate was traced to a rental car company. According to Brown, Abraham was the only person present at the collision scene aside from emergency personnel. Abraham told Brown he was from Chicago and living with his brother. Abraham indicated he had left the country club, where he had been drinking wine, and was headed to his brother's house inside Keowee Key. He also admitted to driving the wrecked vehicle. Brown noted Abraham was unsteady on his feet, slurred his speech, and smelled strongly of alcohol. Brown administered three field sobriety tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test result could not be used due to Abraham's congenital eye condition; however, the other two tests showed signs of impairment. Brown subsequently arrested Abraham for DUI. After being transported to the police station, Abraham submitted to a breath test, which registered a .22 percent blood alcohol level.
Abraham was tried in magistrate court for DUI. The State called Brown as the only witness at trial. Abraham motioned for a directed verdict during and after the State's case, contending the State failed to present sufficient evidence corroborating Abraham's extra-judicial confession to establish the corpus delicti of DUI. These motions were denied, and a jury convicted Abraham. On appeal to the circuit court, the court reversed Abraham's conviction, ruling the evidence at trial was insufficient to establish the corpus delicti of DUI. This appeal followed.
ISSUE ON APPEAL
Did the circuit court err in reversing Abraham's conviction because the evidence at trial was insufficient to ...